Stack Overflow: 7 Books of Poetry for Kids

April is National Poetry Month! To celebrate, here’s a stack of books to read with your little ones. A lot of poetry for kids is usually simple rhymes, but there are many other types of poetry as well, books that make you love language and how it can evoke images and emotions. While we do have some rhymes in today’s stack, there are more stories that are just about the joy of language.

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs by Carol Murray, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This book features a collection of different types of poems: many of them rhyme, but not all of them do, and they have different meters and structures. Each focuses on a different sort of bug: mosquitoes, mites, butterflies, spiders, crickets, and even cockroaches. The poems are accompanied by little fact boxes about the bugs, and there’s an appendix in the back that provides a little more information as well. The illustrations are a mix of drawing and collage, and tend toward whimsical rather than realistic portrayals. It’s a fun way to learn about bugs through verse!

Listen! Listen! by Ann Rand, illustrated by Paul Rand

This picture book is one long poem about sounds, and it’s written in a delightful free verse that plays with rhymes and onomatopoeia. It’s a romp through different sorts of sounds you might hear or make:

Now that’s not a door,
because a door goes wham!
if you slam it,
nor a dog,
and as for a cat,
it certainly isn’t that.

The illustrations are bold cut-paper pictures. I like the way the book encourages the reader to think about the noises around us and to listen for them, to hear the music in them.

First Light, First Life: A Worldwide Creation Story by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Every culture has a creation story, how the world began: with darkness, with water, with fire and ice, with a single drop of milk. Where did the earth come from? People? Paul Fleischman draws from a number of these stories and strings them together, celebrating their similarities and differences. You get glimpses of how ancient peoples made sense of the world around them, from Greece to Australia to Arizona to Mozambique—there are twenty-four different cultures represented in all. The illustrations by Julie Paschkis are lovely, and hint at the art styles from the various cultures as well.

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World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

This book features poems commissioned from contemporary poets, each one inspired by a particular piece of art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artwork ranges from a duck painted in Egypt over 3,000 years ago to a 2014 painting by Kerry James Marshall, and covers a variety of subject matter. The poems draw from the artwork in different ways: telling the story of the painting in some cases, or telling the story of the poet looking at the artwork, in other cases. What’s fascinating about this one is that neither the artwork nor the poetry is what I would typically think of as something for children, but that may be exactly what will draw some kids to it: it feels different than something drawn for kids, written for kids. A section in the back provides more information about the poets and the artists featured in the book.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Newbery winner Kwame Alexander teamed up with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth to write poems celebrating twenty poets, with verses that pay homage to their famous poems. The poets celebrated include Walter Dean Myers, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, and Rumi, just to name a few. Each poem is illustrated by Ekua Holmes’ lovely collages. And, of course, the back provides some more detailed biographies of each of the poets celebrated in the book. Out of Wonder could make a lovely jumping-off point for exploring these other poets and their works.

That Is My Dream! by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Miyares takes Langston Hughes’ poem “Dream Variation” and brings it to life. The pictures show a day in the life of a young black boy in a segregated town in the 1950s, and his dream of a more inclusive future. The words to the poem are somewhat abstract, so the illustrations aren’t exact representations of the text—it’s a neat juxtaposition, showing how a poem can evoke a story even without saying it directly.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

“They say blue is the color of the sky.” So begins a little girl’s meditation on the colors of her world. Is the ocean blue? What about up close, in her hands? Purple means the first bloom of spring; red is for the blood that moves around her body even though she can’t see it. They Say Blue isn’t a rhyming verse, but it still feels like poetry, especially combined with Tamaki’s vibrant watercolors.

Current Stack

So, I had all sorts of plans to include an extra big stack today, because in addition to these lovely books of poetry I’ve included, I also have a lot of rhyming stories for kids and some other poetic picture books. But my kids had spring break this past week, and time just got away from me, so unfortunately you’ll have to make do with these. Perhaps later in the month I’ll share a few more titles from that stack!

Lately, other than these picture books, I’ve been slowly making my way through Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. I finished Annihilation just before I watched the film (both the book and film are utterly fascinating, but also very different from each other), and then dove into Authority, the second book. It took me a while, because it’s the sort of book that I had to stop and process a little more along the way, but I really enjoyed it. I’ve just cracked open the last book, Acceptance.

Besides that, I’ve read a few more comic books to add to my review stack: Graham Annable’s Peter & Ernesto, about two sloth friends; Sithrah volumes 2 and 3 by Jason Brubaker, which I backed on Kickstarter; the second book in the Star Scouts series by Mike Lawrence; Sara Varon’s latest, New Shoes; the latest adventures of Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Unicorn of Many Hats by Dana Simpson; and a fun story about a girl who loves mysteries, Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret. Hopefully I’ll have time to tell you about these in more detail soon!

Disclosure: I received review copies of these titles.

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This post was last modified on April 2, 2018 10:40 am

Jonathan H. Liu

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit. I can be reached at jonathan at geekdad dot com.

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